Multifaith Musings: Reflections from Matthew Kalkman ’20 Posted on November 3rd, 2018 by

A crucifix held up to the sky (Creative Commons licensed photo)

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest Christian Church in the world and has over 1.29 billion members.  It is headed by the Pope and the Holy See in the Vatican in Rome.  The theological foundations of this religion are based on the Nicene creed.  The Mother Mary and saints may be included in prayers to intercede on a person’s behalf.  Roman Catholic thought places emphasis on salvation, with holy communion and confession being sacraments to help experience it.  Followers are usually baptized at birth and then will go through confirmation when older to commit themselves to the Church.  The religion has multiple holidays, usually centered around the life of Christ.  There is also a season of fasting and/or giving up vices during Lent.

Matthew Kalkman, (’20), is a Roman Catholic.  He plans to go into finance and likes things to be organized and structured.  This might be part of why he likes Catholic mass so much.  If you ask him, he’ll say that religion is a way of believing in a higher power and connecting with the world. It can serve to help communities heal after tragedies and find peace.  This strong conviction in the good that religion can do for people leads Matt to partake in interfaith dialogue.  He thinks it is important that people have critical conversations to understand each other’s ways of thought and practice.  He wants to share his beliefs and help people.

One thing Matthew believes is that God is in everything.  To him, God is the combination of time, space, and matter that sparked the creation of everything.  He says that you can find God in the things you enjoy and are blessed with.  Personally, he feels connected with the Divine through service, prayer, and reading scripture.  Matt also feels connected with Him when he connects with others, playing sports or spending time with loved ones.   His idea of faith is an internal experience that is always there.

Kalkman feels that God is always with us and is forever watching over and caring for us.  It was a simple phone call and a missed turn that kept his sister from being present during an attack at a café when in Paris. This and many events throughout Matthew’s life have reinforced his faith in God and the Church.  When in middle and high school, he went through a time where he questioned his beliefs.  What maintained a thread of faith for him was the summer programs of Young Life.  These were camps that seemed perfectly designed to be the ‘best week of your life’ and involved backpacking and hymns, good food and bible stories.  They helped Matt stay connected with his religion.  The programs there also helped a family he knew heal and overcome a father’s struggles with drug addiction.

Matthew sees these programs and other religious community outreach as a way of responding to the gift of God’s salvation. He believes in the biblical tradition of original sin and that all people should seek to be absolved and live good lives, and enjoys spending time with people of different Christian denominations and learning about other theological perspectives on salvation.  Matt is still forming his own ideas about how God’s saving grace can be known and experienced. Using Catholicism as a base, Matthew has built his own, independent ideas and values. Confession is important to him, but so are intent and actions.  What he has established for himself so far is that salvation is a matter of faith and morality combined.

Matthew says that his beliefs about the Bible are on the more conservative side, but that doesn’t stop him from interacting with and learning about all forms of Christianity.  He’s been to mega churches, creationist churches, and churches in other parts of the country.  He participated in the GOLD leadership training here at Gustavus and has had a lot of discussion with Chaplains Siri and Grady.  The chaplains told him to read the scripture for himself and find out what his thoughts were.  Now he does this almost every night before bed.  He also attends mass as he can, either on campus here or at a church in Mankato.   Though he’s mostly able to attend just Lutheran or non-denominational services now, Matthew says that his experiences at college have made his faith stronger than ever.

“Religion is a way of connecting with a higher power and a way of connecting with the world.”


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